Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Beth's Dragon Con History

It's been 25 year since my first Dragon Con. 

I can't even believe how old that makes me feel. I was 17, and a friend wanted to meet up with some people who were "doing this thing downtown". I went along because there isn't much else to do when you're 17, and your mom doesn't care what you do or how late you stay out. I won't say she was foolish to trust me since I never got in any trouble; she just trusted me to not do anything that would land me in jail. All I really remember about that night is wandering around a hotel lobby waiting for my friend to finish hooking up with some dude, and trying to stay awake. I don't really recall anything weird or nerdy happening, but then I think I just got dragged along for my friend to make a booty call. If I'd had a cell phone back then I'd have been calling her every 5 minutes until she took me home. Or I could have taken an Uber. Those just weren't options at the time so I sat. That sounds kind of sad now, but I did talk to a few interesting nerds and made a few momentary pals. I'm sure everyone has been at the mercy of a selfish friend before so I won't get too caught up in feeling sorry for my younger self. I honestly didn't even know I was at Dragon Con until a few days later until a friend at school told me that's where I had been. I can't say it left me with a bad feeling towards Dragon Con because it wasn't the con's fault I'd been duped. But for one reason or another I didn't go back for a few years. Primarily because I didn't know what the hell it was. I was a kid in school with no internet so there was no way for me to research or look in to anything like that. Here's my old person moment - you kids today have no idea...emoji, meme, hashtag...

Then when I was 19 or 20 (those years all kind of run together) I went to the con kind of for real as a booth babe for a friend of mine who owned a kitchy video store in Little 5 Points. Twenty something years ago I was hot enough to be a booth babe for someone who wasn't paying and just asked as a favor since he didn't have any hotter girls who were willing to work for booze. Anyway, my job was to draw guys in or talk to the guys who were already in and try to get them to buy stuff. This was surprisingly difficult for me because despite what you might think I'm painfully shy sometimes. I'm much better now, but it was pretty bad back then. It's sad that I was shy when I was hot, and now that I'm old and 20 pounds heavier I just don't give a fuck. Life is full of these horrible ironies. So I spent my entire con day in the dealer room (which I think was in the Hilton lower levels back then). After hours my group ingested some substances that I no longer endorse for any person of any age, and then went wandering because being trapped in a hotel room with 5 people was getting old. I took a ton of pictures which have sadly been lost forever, and got mistaken for a LARP game participant. I didn't really understand what was happening around me, and it wasn't entirely due to the aforementioned substances. I didn't see much of Dragon Con that weekend besides the dealer room and the weird nightlife that existed 20 odd years ago. I had no idea what people did during the day at this thing until Sunday morning. We had a very late night, but our room was right above the tennis court. At 8 in the morning I awoke to guttural grunting and the clang of metal. I opened the curtain to see a fully costumed Klingon battle happening below. Now, I'm a full on Next Generation fan (my father and I have had some heated arguments about our favorite captains), but when your fandom interrupts my badly needed beauty sleep I am not on board. As everyone else around me started to wake up and question the source of the unholy racket I simply said "Dragon Con wants us to go home now".

So for a long time that weird experience was my idea of what Dragon Con was all about. I love Star Trek and everything, but this was a little too much for me. And for many years afterward I stayed home and was quietly nerdy (or loudly nerdy, but with a very small group of people). About 10 years later some of my friends started going to the parties at night, and invited me to come along. I didn't remember a night life worth hauling my ass downtown for, but at least I'd know some people there. Obviously I went, and had a great time. The night life had gotten really good, and if you liked weird people watching then it was the place to be. I still had no clue what really went on during the day, but had so much fun at night that I wasn't too broken up. There were also a few major life events that left me too broke for too many years to be able to afford to go in the day. Yes, I was one of those jerks who busted in to Dragon Con at night and took up all the fun (you didn't need a badge at night then so I don't feel guilty about my semi-illegal attendance). Now for another many years I was a nights only Dragon Con attendee. I also went to the parade several times, but as I'm not a morning person and preferred the nightlife I got over that pretty quickly. This was also not a big deal at the time since the con was still pretty small back then. We just hung out near the Hyatt pool, and had lots of drinks. It was fun though. 

Then over the course of a few years several things happened that changed everything for me, and my Dragon Con experience. The first was that it got tough to get into Dragon Con without a badge no matter when you went. The fact that it was now forbidden made it much more enticing, and I started trying to find out what I was missing. The ability to look things up on the internet quickly made me realize what I was missing. For so many years I thought it was just a place for nerds and outcasts to gather with their kindred spririts. Most of my best friends are already these things which hadn't made me feel the need to pay to hang out with others that I didn't know. But wait, I was missing seeing Doctors and Captains and a thousand other things that I would never get to be a part of anywhere else? What a fool I was. The next thing to happen was being contacted by my old pal Phantom, and convinced to start writing again. So I got loudly nerdy for maybe the first time ever. It seemed to go well I guess since I've been doing it on the regular for 3 or 4 years now. The big thing was that Phantom suggested that if I made regular contributions I might be able to fanagle myself a media pass to Dragon Con. Now I may fancy myself a writer, but I never saw myself as a reporter. They have to do work. Research, and talking to people, and stuff. I had no idea how to be a reporter or what to do at my first official con. I had an interview with Timothy Zahn, and it was almost like I was somebody. I'm totally not, but it was cool to pretend. So I'm entering my third year as an official Dragon Con reporter. I don't know that I'm getting any better at it, but since I keep getting approved I must be doing something right. Or at least not pissing people off too badly. 

So what will my coverage look like this year? I don't even know yet. I have too much marked on my app to possibly be able to do, but that's the norm for me. There's no telling what I'll actually do. I'd like to see Alan Tudyk, Brandon Sanderson, Bob Camp, and something to do with Labyrinth. Of course, I'll also be helping with The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show so that will take a chunk out of my Saturday. That's so much fun it's barely work. Starting the week after the con I'll be posting once a week with coverage so check back soon. I'll keep going until I run out of things to say. Or until I have to start writing Halloween related stuff; whichever happens first.           


Beth got her start writing for a site called Movie Criticism for the Retarded (which has been reborn as dorkdroppings.com. Check it out sometime), but was pulled out of an early retirement to write for Needless Things. When she isn't writing she plays video games and watches bad horror movies while eagerly awaiting the zombie apocalypse. She may try to save her husband and/or their cats, but luckily hasn't had to make those tough decisions yet. Follow beth0rama on Instagram or on Twitter @NeedlessBeth where she doesn't post often enough to be annoying, but updates way more than Google+.

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